CORONAVIRUS IN THE WORKPLACE
More than any event in recent history, the coronavirus has permeated all aspects of our lives. It has had a particularly dramatic impact in the workplace. While many are staying home under lockdown, those deemed to work in “essential industries” risk their lives on a daily basis. The State of California has taken many steps to protect workers during this unprecedented crisis. Whether you have contracted COVID-19, been exposed to it, or been pressured to work in an unsafe or illegal work environment you may have recourse. If you have been affected physically or psychologically by the coronavirus you may be protected by the Workers’ Compensation system. If you are being pressured by your employer to work in violation of the lockdown, or if you are permitted to work but are being placed in an unsafe working environment without the proper equipment there are numerous employment laws in place to protect you.
WORKERS COMPENSATION CLAIMS RELATING TO THE CORONAVIRUS
Until recently, proving that you had been infected by the coronavirus at work would have been a difficult task. Given how infectious the coronavirus is and how widespread it has become, proving that you contracted the virus at work would be an uphill battle. However, on May 6, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-62-20, which created a rebuttable presumption that an employee’s COVID-19-related illness arose in the course of employment for purposes of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits.
In order for the rebuttable presumption to apply, you must have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or tested positive for it within 14 days after working for your employer. As of now, it only applies to injuries sustained between March 19, 2020, and July 5, 2020. Additionally, if the employee was originally diagnosed with COVID-19 but not tested, the diagnosis must have been performed by a licensed physician and the diagnosis must be confirmed by further testing within 30 days.
The coronavirus has caused emotional trauma on an unprecedented scale. If you have been exposed to the coronavirus or have suffered emotional distress as a result of working in a job that potentially exposes you to the virus you may have a stress based or psychological injury. California treats physical and psychological injuries essentially the same, save for a few additional requirements to pursue a stress based claims. In order to prevail on psychological claim the employee must prove that (1) they worked for the employer for at least six months, (2) that worked based stress was the main cause of stress in their life, and (3) that the stress was not the result of a good faith personnel action. Employees who can satisfy these three requirements are entitled to the same benefits for a psychological injury as are available to employees who are physically injured. If you have suffered a psychological injury due to exposure or possible exposure to the coronavirus you may have the basis for a workers’ compensation claim.
EMPLOYMENT CLAIMS AS A RESULT OF THE CORONAVIRUS
California has some of the most extensive and progressive laws in the nation to protect employees. This is also true when it comes to laws protecting employees from unscrupulous business practices during the coronavirus pandemic. If you are being forced to work in violation of the shelter in place orders passed by the State of California, or are working in an “essential industry” but are not being provided the proper safety equipment, you may have recourse under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), or the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OSHA”).
If you have been physically or emotionally affected by the coronavirus, or if your employer is pressuring you to work in an unsafe working environment contact the Law Offices of Bob Nehoray for a free consultation to explore your rights.